Chapter 24 - The Shadow of Memories
The next day dawned with a warm brightness that gently spread itself over the peaceful elven valley. Yet the shadow of the night before and the memories it stirred still hung heavily upon Glorfindel and the elven lord greeted the sun not with a glad smile, but with a weary sigh.
Silently he dressed and it was almost with relief that he left his bedroom - for the night he had spent in it had not been pleasant.
After leaving Ellas's room, his thoughts had been a heavy burden upon him. Usually when his mind was troubled he would walk beneath the moonlight until his mind settled. And if that failed he would seek the council and company of Elrond. But there are some burdens that are not easily shared, some thoughts and fears not easily worded.
So Glorfindel had made his way to his bedroom and carefully closed the door behind him, shutting himself away with memories of a long ago age, a city long fallen and a desperate flight, a desperate fight - demonic fire amongst the mountains.
Memories of awakening in a world changed. His skin soft and new, unmarked by any scar and yet carrying a wound on his heart that no other could share. Grief not only for friends and for a city lost but perhaps even for himself. For who he had once been. The House of the Golden Flower had long since been lost and he could not be the Glorfindel he had always been before death and time had left him behind.
Yes, his night had not been pleasant. But now he closed the door behind him again, this time on the outside of his bedroom. Deciding to let the memories of his own past rest behind the closed door was not very difficult in the light of day. But his worries for Ellas were not as easily put to rest.
Wounds of the heart take a long time to heal... Glorfindel had had that time and though a scar remained, invisible to all but himself, his own wounds, his own memories had long since stopped haunting him.
Except on nights like these, when they were brought to the surface.
His suspicions for Ellas were almost unthinkable, but Glorfindel new better than to discount any possibilty, no matter how unlikely, out of hand. Especially when one was already dealing with an impossibility. An elfling that no elf on Arda had known about - for he was sure that none would have left him alone in the wild, and had he been lost there would have been word. There should have been word of his birth.
Much as he did not wish for any to share his fate, Glorfindel feared that it was actually possible. Perhaps it was merely the shadow of his own memory encroaching on his thoughts. He had no proof that Ellas had suffered the same fate as him. But he knew that there was something amiss in the little one's past.
Ellas was haunted by his own shadows. The little elfling carried his own wound upon the heart and Glorfindel prayed that he too would find healing in Imladris.
While there was one in Imladris who awoke with dread still upon his heart, there were others who greeted the dawn more hopefully.
Aragorn smiled when he found the young elfling already seated at a table with his two brothers. It was heartening to see the little one come out of his shell. His initial shyness still remained in part, but it seemed that the twins, at least, had conquered the strange distance between them with their usual persistence, playfulness and endless patience.
It was his hope that with time, kindness and patience, Ellas would overcome whatever shadows his past hid – and these things could be found in abundance in the House of Elrond.
"Estel!" A sweet voice called to him and he laughed freely as he made his way to the one who uttered it.
"Good morning, little one," Aragorn greeted as he drew up a chair, "Good morning Elladan, Elrohir."
Whatever it was that lied in Ellas's past that made the elfling so withdrawn, quiet and wary, the child was still capable of both genuine joy and trust. He could read both in the boy's face as he looked up at him.
There was reason to be hopeful.
When they left the hall behind after breakfast, Ellas had lingered behind a bit and, when Estel and his brothers were talking to each other, he had snuck away.
He liked Estel, of course he did, and he was starting to like the elven twins as well – though he was a bit more wary around them still, afraid he would make a mistake somehow and show to them that he really didn't know the first thing about being an elf.
Despite that, he liked spending time with Elladan and Elrohir. But he could join them again later. First he wanted to do what he did yesterday – to help out instead of being babysat. He wasn't really a child after all.
And Harry wasn't really sure what to do, otherwise. Now that they were here, in Imladris, there was no more travelling. Ever since he arrived in this world he had had this rhythm of getting up, walking when he was still alone and riding after meeting up with his friends, until dinner.
Now that there was nowhere to travel to he felt a bit lost. What was he supposed to do all day? His first childhood had been spent running away from Dudley, going to school or doing chores. But he hadn't been given any chores, no-one had mentioned anything about a school and, thankfully, Dudley wasn't here.
And it had felt good to do something - even if it was just chores. He couldn't access his magic, and he couldn't do the things he was able to do as an adult wizard, but at least he could still be useful. That was a good thing, wasn't it?
Now if only those elves would actually let him help. But now yet another group of elves that he had joined distracted him from working. This time one of the elves slowly led him away from the rest, at first telling him things that seemed relevant to the work but slowly transitioning into a long story.
With a little huff, Ellas gave up and settled down on the bench they had oh-so-conveniently reached.
By now he realized that it couldn't be a coincidence - those elves were being sneaky!
Harry was embarrassed how long it took him to notice it, because when he finally did it seemed obvious.
He pouted, feeling a bit insulted - he may be a child but he could still help! A part of him wanted to stalk away, because if they didn't want his help he might as well go away.
It's just... the story was actually pretty interesting and he couldn't help but wonder if it was just a story or part of the history of this world. It was difficult to tell, because he had a feeling the elf was glossing over the more interesting bits. But when they reached the point that a lady changed into a seagull he felt pretty sure into which category to place this story. 'So, a myth then. I wonder if it's a really well-known story in this world, like that of King Arthur in mine.'
"And so we can see Eärendil even here, as the evening star in the sky," the elf finished and Ellas was satisfied despite being foiled in his plans because this story had everything; love, battles (even if he didn't get to hear any details), magic and dragons.
That didn't change the fact that this elf was being sneaky about not letting him help. And Harry was going to let him know he noticed, so he tilted his head in question and asked the elf: "How does this help with cleaning?"
The storyteller remained completely unruffled at his question, something that made Ellas pout just a bit.
"Well, little one, I felt you might wish to know more about Imladris and its lord. It was for that reason that I told you the story of Lord Elrond's parents."
Harry blinked up at the elf, who smiled at him. "Ah, I believe it is lunchtime now, little Ellas. Shall we make our way to the hall?"
With an absentminded nod, he trailed after the elf but in his mind he was still trying to make sense of how Eärendil and Elwing were apparently Lord Elrond's parents. Even if he didn't focus on the strange events (if those higher beings could bring him here as a child elf, then they could probably change a woman into a bird), the story had still sounded more like a legend or myth than history. The way the elf had told it, it sounded like it happened ages ago.
It was really strange.
Ellas must still have had an odd look on his face when they entered the hall for lunch, because the elvish pair of twins made their way to his side and one of them said; "Greetings, Ellas. You look like you are thinking deeply. Aye, I know it to be a difficult task myself! 'T is not easy to make a decision on what to eat today."
"I thought you had solved that problem by deciding to eat everything, my brother?" was how the other twin responded, with a pointed look at the elf's stomach.
Ellas just stared at the two of them for a moment and, guided by his innate curiosity, bluntly asked; "Did your grandmother really change into a seagull?"
He heard the elf who had told him the story laughing as he walked away from them and wondered if he might have been pranked. It was a testament to how comfortable he had gotten around these two when it came to teasing and the like that he mentioned this out loud.
"Did that elf just trick me?"
One of the twins laughed, while the other answered him with an amused smile; "No little one, if he told you the story of our grandparents, then I can tell you that this did indeed happen, though it was long ago."
How long ago could it have been, if it was a story about their grandparents? There was something else lingering at the back of his mind as well, when he thought about this, something strange that he had heard… "How long ago?"
"'T was at the end of the First Age, little one, over five thousand years ago," the elf informed him.
"Come Ellas, we can tell you more while we eat," Elladan or Elrohir said, steering him gently towards the raised table.
But Harry wasn't really listening, because this didn't make sense. He opened his mouth, ready to tell them that that was impossible, even if it really shouldn't need to be said.
And he stopped, because in the back of his mind things were slowly sliding into place. He remembered, in the stories that Estel, Elladan and Elrohir had told him of the man's childhood, that neither of the elves had been a child like Estel. They had played the role of older brothers. Which shouldn't have been possible, because they looked younger than Estel.
Was that even possible? 'I don't think they were lying to me, and I don't think they are lying now. But…'
But it should have been impossible.
Ellas let the two elves lead him to the raised table and sat down between them. He quietly ate what the twins put on his plate and listened as they told him a bit more, but he couldn't bring himself to give more of a reply than the occasional nod.
Because his mind was filled with questions. And to one of these he really needed an answer, because if Elrond's grandparents lived five thousand years ago, then how long did these elves live?
And how could he ask that when he was sure that he was already supposed to know this? He was, after all, supposed to be an elf himself.
He didn't even want to think about what it would mean for him if the answer to that question turned out to be 'A real bloody long time'.
But now that the thought had formed, he couldn't shake it anymore and his breath caught in his throat as he felt a hint of panic flutter in his chest.
The twin that was talking halted abruptly in his explanations, obviously recognizing that something was wrong, "Ellas, what is it, little one?"
Harry mutely shook his head and looked away, his eyes roaming the hall, looking for a safe haven to settle upon, but Estel wasn't there and everything was alien, elven, and only now was he starting to realise just how very different from human that could be.
His eyes were drawn to movement at the entrance of the hall and he saw Lord Glorfindel enter. Their eyes met, and panicked green eyes met warm, steady, ancient looking ones.
And Harry was brave: he had faced everything life had to throw at him and he had done it standing up straight – even in front of Voldemort himself.
And Ellas uncertain of his place in this world and scared of being left alone again, but also willing to trust. To trust in these elves, in the light that he could feel from them and the peace and welcome he could find even from simply sitting in a tree. He wanted the kindness and warmth that Thurston, Halbarad, Dunnere, Estel, Elladan, Elrohir, even Lord Elrond and Lord Glorfindel so freely offered him.
And Harry was still homesick for Hermione, for Ron, for an adult body and magic and his world, even if he hadn't really liked it all that much at the time. And this world was so very much not his and he was a stranger again, different, unwittingly stepping into another world just like the eleven year old he had once been.
He wasn't sure if it was the childish elf in him or just him or if there even was such a distinction anymore. But he needed to get away from this hall with too many people, too many elves. Without making any conscious decision on what to do, his body reacted - he bolted.
Pale and panicking, Ellas dove under the table, scrambled to the other side and ran.
A warm pair of arms encircled him before he could even manage to exit the hall.
He struggled, instinctively, because the feeling of being held like this was unfamiliar. But he couldn't get loose, the arms holding him - Glorfindel's arms a part of him realised - were too strong.
Moments later he was gently set down.
And he became aware of several things:
He was in his room, Glorfindel had carried him to his bed.
There was, thankfully, no one else there but the two of them.
He was crying.
After that first meeting with his new human friends, who he had slowly come to trust, that first desperate feeling of being lost and alone in a strange world, so far away from anyone he cared about had settled, just a bit.
Now it was back, in full force. Harry felt as lost and alone as he had when he discovered that he had lost the first people he had found and he couldn't stop this body from crying.
He had faced worse odds, Harry tried to tell himself, had lived through things much more dire than… than what? Discovering that these elves might be immortal or something? That wasn't something he knew for sure – and he wasn't sure if it applied to him either.
Not knowing anything about being an elf, then?
He hadn't known anything about being a wizard either, at first. But he hadn't been afraid – he had been excited. A new world of magic, a chance for finding a real home. An escape from the Dursleys.
And there he had found Ron and Hermione, his first friends.
He was aching for the two of them right now.
And if not Ron or Hermione, then he wanted Thurston, with his warm and careful hands and understanding smile. He could have told the man everything, because Thurston couldn't understand the language, but seemed to understand Harry well enough anyway.
But Thurston wasn't here either, instead there was the bright elvish light of Glorfindel, and the elf was kneeling in front of where he was sitting on the bed, arms stretched out towards Ellas, but carefully not touching. Patient and kind, and how many years had this elf lived? How much had he seen and done and still have that warmth?
Harry didn't, couldn't understand.
The elven lord was whispering to him, telling him that all was well, singing softly of trees and flowers and the fragrant breeze in spring and playful grasses and soaring birds, telling of warmth and of welcome and of comfort. And slowly, the elf reached out, brushed a hand over his hair and inched closer.
And one of those warm, strong arms lifted to fit around him, loosely, gently and comforting, but Harry backed away from the edge of the bed until his back was resting against the wall, frightened eyes fixed upon the golden-haired elf.
It wasn't because he, Ellas, Harry, didn't want the comfort that the elf offered him.
It was because he did.
He wanted too, oh how he wanted too. His heart nearly burst for the wanting. And yet… he was too scared to accept it, the affection, the care, the love that he had always longed for and that was so freely offered to him now.
But he wasn't sure if it was possible that Lord Glorfindel actually cared about him.
What if it was this elfling that he, that all of these elves cared for instead? But with every day that went by, the line in his mind between him and this elf-child he had become began to thin.
No longer was he sure where Harry ended and the elfling began. Was this longing to be held and loved a remnant of the Harry Potter he had been or was it the child in him that desperately wanted to be loved?
He didn't know anymore. He just knew that he was unreasonably scared.
'If the wizarding world could see me now,' Harry thought ruefully, 'their 'saviour'.
But it was true all the same.
He was scared witless of what would happen if he gave in.
He was scared that giving in to this childish, elfling side of his would erase who he had been before this. While he had often wanted nothing more than to be rid of the image of a saviour, of being the boy-who-lived, he didn't want to erase himself entirely. Because if he did than he would not just lose himself, but also his parents, his godfather, his friends.
He was scared that allowing himself to bask in the care offered to him would be a betrayal of his parents. Of his father who had fought for him and his mother who had sacrificed herself for him. He was afraid that letting these people care for him would mean giving them up entirely.
When Sirius had offered to take him it had been different, because his godfather had been entrusted with that by his parents. And Harry had jumped at that chance, but then that chance was mislaid with Sirius being on the run for the law and then lost altogether with his death.
And Harry was once again send back with the Dursleys, where magic, wonder and care were completely foreign concepts.
Now, more than anything else, Harry was scared that he would lose it again. If he gave in now and became used, no dependant on this care - how would he survive if it was once more taken from his him?
He didn't know and he never wanted to find out.
So he kept his distance as Glorfindel softly kept singing and sat quietly curled up on his bed, waiting out the tears streaming down his face.
A.N. I'm alive. Yay? Also, sorry... but yeah. Writing and me are two things that sometimes get on splendidly and a lot of the time are complete strangers.
Still, I can't keep writing one-shots until eternity. Because really, there are only so many ways you can dump Harry Potter in a different world and I think I've gone through most of them. And yet, one-shots are great because they're done. Finished. No updating required, which works out great for me.